WebRTC Solutions Industry News

[April 25, 2007]

OnStar, MapQuest Unite in Joint Venture

(AP) OnStar, MapQuest Unite in Joint Venture
By JEFF KAROUB
Associated Press Writer
DETROIT
General Motors Corp.'s OnStar service is working with MapQuest to let drivers link their desktops with the blacktop.

The automaker and the online mapping service of Dulles, Va.-based AOL (News - Alert) LLC said the expansion of OnStar's in-vehicle navigation system is designed to let its subscribers plan their driving route at MapQuest.com and send information about their destination directly to their cars.

OnStar Web Destination Entry will be launched in a pilot program this summer with a random sample of 3,000 customers, GM planned to announce Wednesday. It's expected to be available by the end of the year on more than 2 million GM vehicles with OnStar's Turn-by-Turn Navigation capability.

The navigation system was introduced last year as part of the decade-old OnStar system, which offers driving directions, roadside assistance and other services through about 2,000 advisers at three North American call centers. The system also alerts emergency rescue officials when an air bag deploys or the vehicle is involved in a crash.

Web Destination Entry will allow customers to log on to MapQuest and create up to five destinations, which are then stored on secure OnStar servers. The driver can send them to and access them through the vehicle's OnStar system, which calculates the route and provides voice-guided, step-by-step directions from the vehicle's location.

Although drivers can already get the directions by calling an OnStar operator, OnStar and MapQuest officials said Web Destination Entry adds convenience.

"If you think about Web destination planning end-to-end today, you've kind of got a static origin and static destination," said OnStar President Chet Huber. "This literally allows the origin to be serendipitously determined at whatever point you want to start that trip."

Jim Greiner, Denver-based MapQuest's senior vice president and general manager, said the new service is responding to customer demand to expand the capabilities of online mapping.

"Our mission, our vision in life, is to help people find places, whenever and wherever they need to be," he said. "We think this partnership is one step, one giant step toward ... fulfilling our vision."

The companies did not disclose financial details.

By teaming with MapQuest, the GM subsidiary is making a "leadership move" in the North American market, although it won't be alone for long, said Phil Magney, principal analyst with Minnetonka, Minn.-based Telematics Research Group.

BMW AG recently announced a similar tie-up with Google (News - Alert) Inc.'s Google Maps. The German automaker said it is launching the service first in Germany, but it plans to spread to all markets that employ its telematic system known as Assist.

Ford Motor Co. also has announced a deal with Microsoft (News - Alert) Corp. earlier this year to develop the wireless Sync system for future vehicles. While Sync differs from OnStar in that it links cars with cell phones and personal music players, Ford has said it someday could include laptop computer links, vehicle diagnostics and other services.

Even with the financial struggles facing U.S. automakers, Magney said they can't afford to ignore developing in-vehicle technology and communications systems.

Services such as OnStar provide automakers recurring revenue through subscriptions, enhance the technological value of the car and serve as an important tool for enhancing the relationship with customers, he said.

"(They all) realize that long-term, the automaker has to have a wireless connection to the vehicle," he said.

OnStar is standard on more than two-thirds of 2007 model year GM vehicles and will be included on nearly all 2008 vehicles. As an option, it costs $695, which includes the hardware and first year's subscription fee.

After the first year, the subscription price is $16.95 a month or $199 annually. OnStar officials say the retention rate for their service is more than 60 percent.

With the navigation package, the total cost of renewing OnStar is $299 a year. The Web-based service will be available at no additional cost.

Detroit-based GM said OnStar provides services to more than 4.5 million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada.

___

On the Net:

OnStar: http://www.onstar.com

MapQuest: http://www.mapquest.com

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